Into the Mouth of The Frozen Lion: Rubin – Barça

CL Preview: Rubin Kazan – Barça, Wednesday 12:30pmEST, Fox Soccer/FSE

Kazan Kremlin (Wikimedia)
Kazan Kremlin (Wikimedia)

Reading the history of Kazan it quickly becomes obvious that the city is prone to being reduced to rubble. Fires and wars were the typical culprits, but Ivan the terrible massacred most of the population and then sent the rest of the Tatars to live a couple of dozen miles away. Basically, this is a resilient city. In the US, we talk about Mrs O’Leary’s cow burning down Chicago an it’s pretty amazing that it survived like it did; the 1909 San Francisco earthquake was devastating, of course, and the Dresden firebombing was awful, but those things only happened once. Kazan’s destruction happened at least five times. No wonder they’re able to consider simply going to Barcelona and winning a match par for the course.

Because of all that, I say we torch the place–they won’t mind that much since they’re used to this sort of treatment from outside invaders, right? Seriously, come on, it’s not that big a deal if we pull the ring trick from Leon The Professional on them, right? Except without our death too, cause that would be friggin’ pointless.

We’re coming off a disappointing draw with Osasuna, which we had all wrapped up until a 93rd minute own goal dragged us back down from the lofty heights of Winnersville into the middling suburbs of Dawerton. Since we obviously don’t want to get shoved into the hickish wilds in or around Loserburg, I’m going to guess that we’re going to bring the fire-breathing craziness to the Russian winter.


Speaking of: I don’t know where you’re from. I don’t know what you’re used to. What do know is that I live in a part of the world where it can get down to -20F with wind chill. I also know that the average high for Kazan, Russia is 29F (-1.5C) and the average low is 21F (-6.3C). That’s cold, yes, I realize that, especially if you’re from Barcelona and used to the Mediterranean temperatures, but it’s not that cold. No offense, but saying “below zero temperatures” doesn’t make me think of the above-pictured ice storm. The above-pictured ice storm makes me think of ice storms. It’s not going to be fun to play in sub-freezing conditions, but with a heated field and some decent long johns I think the boys will be okay. And they can have themselves some nice hot cocoa after the match to warm them up…and yes, Bojan can have the mini marshmallows we all know he loves. Plus, as Guardiola himself said in a press conference: “I’m sure my players will run fast, otherwise they will freeze.”

But just in case the boys do feel the cold, they might want to take a look at this page to see if it has the references they’re looking for. I mean, why take risks with your large fortunes just because having three or four Russian honeys as a comforter is fun? Know what you’re getting into, I always say. The temperature tomorrow evening/night, according to Weather Underground, will be a bit below average (24F), but with higher humidity and no expected precipitation of any kind, it shouldn’t be all that bad. They have to play in that weather too, after all.

What’s far more troubling than the cold, to me, is that the grass on the field is going to be longer than we’re used to. I don’t know if that’s just how they roll in Russia or if they decided to grow it longer for our sake, but longer grass means legs get more tired and balls don’t roll as well. I don’t know what our players prefer, to be honest, but I imagine it’s not the grass that slows things to a crawl because our dribbling moves need to be made at lightning speed and the long-term wear on the legs from longer grass is pretty intense sometimes.

Rubin's field, according to Spanish media
Rubin's field, according to Spanish media

I imagine that they’ll come after us in the same manner that they came after us in the Camp Nou since it worked so damned well the first time. What we need to do is take the same approach as well, but finish our chances. They may or may not slightly change their formation since MacBeth Sebaya is now available after a suspension, but we’ll have to wait to find out. I expect the same ideas, if a slightly different lineup.

From our side, we’ve got Alves and Henry back and I expect both of them to start. Because of his excellent start to the season, it seems harsh to bench Keita in favor of a striker coming off of injury, but because they mainly play through the middle and then go into a defensive sell with a double pivot, I see Iniesta’s ball-control abilities as more important than Keita’s counter-attack-stopping abilities. What I mean is, I think that Henry’s quickness up front on the left will help us more than Iniesta’s shiftiness. We need to get into position and take shots, not merely control the ball and attempt to walk it into the net. Henry, I think will allow us both width and incisiveness while Iniesta’s role in the center of the field will give us the requisite on-the-ball dominance that will tell over time.

We have no one injured from our squad list, so here’s my projected lineup: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, The Yaya, Xavi, Iniesta, Henry, Ibra, Messi. We go all out from the start with Keita and Pedro! coming in during the middle of the second half for Henry and Iniesta respectively. Having Henry start on the bench might be smart too, of course, but I’d rather get him going from the beginning and have him wear down the opponents for Pedro! to come on rather than the other way around because neither Pedro! nor Iniesta are capable of imposing the physical load on the defender that Henry is.

But this is a serious match with serious consequences if we don’t get out without a point. Inter host Dynamo in the other group fixture and while I’ll be rooting for another draw in that one alongside a win from us, what’s imperative is that no matter what, we need at least one point from this. If we don’t get that point, that puts Rubin top of the group and us looking up from here on out. A draw would at least ensure that we were second at worst and possibly would remain first with two matches left were Inter and Dynamo to draw. In order to win this match, we need to score some goals, rather than pussyfoot the ball around and give up silly counters. That means Iniesta’s abilities in the midfield will be enormous as he gets the ball from our defense to our attacking third while maintaining a shape behind him.

Official prediction: 1-2, Barça wins with goals from Messi and Ibra. There’s just no way to keep a good team down after the frustration of getting your league kisser punched (almost literally by Valdes) right at the death. Get hyped and bring it.

Match time:
Local/Russia: 8:30pm
Barcelona: 6:30pm
NYC/EST: 12:30pm
Check our local time here

This match will be available on Fox Soccer and Fox Sports en Español in the United States.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. Ibra would spend all evening looking for Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Alves in that Grass!!!!

    1. oh, that’s hilarious! he might have a chance to see them with his angle of view, but how would those guys find each other? our magical triangle on the right would not work

  2. I’m pretty sure that it’s the quite big and sudden contrast of temperature why they are talking about it all the time. If they came from +22 C and arrived in Kazan where it’s -5 C, then it can be quite noticable. Now they must feel like they’ve stepped into a freezer.
    I’m not an expert, of course, but I think that in Spain as well they get temperatures in winter that are actually lower than +5 C. Wasn’t it once last season that during one of Atletico’s matches fans started throwing snowballs on the pitch?
    If they just keep running around (which is something you usually do in a football match), they should be fine. Those sitting on the bench might have some problems, though. 😀

    P.S. I, myself, am from a country that in winter’s sometimes gets temperatures like -25 C. Now, THAT is cold. 😀

  3. i like that starting line up you are predicting Isaiah, I feel that would be our strongest team to field to win. let’s hope guardiola agrees!

  4. BTW everyone Caceres is starting to show some promise…It looks like he has been practicing his long ball abilities.Throughout the Jueventus game he attacked and defended well.But considering the opposition i guess that what he is supposed to be showing…….

  5. Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, The Yaya, Xavi, Iniesta, Henry, Ibra, Messi is probably our strongest lineup but Keita might have something to say about that.

    1. Yeah but Pep never uses a player just returning from Injury so we would most likely be seeing Iniesta in the place of Henry and Keita in the mid. Alves to me is the only exception in Pep’s mind to start fresh of and injury……..

    2. COME ON TITIIIIII!!!! im betting he is going to score a wonderful goal for us, those curving shots that are beautifully placed in the net (see Atletico’s goal from last year).

  6. From the Russian Bride website:

    “Dear Marina
    I bought your on-line book and obviously get your e-mails…I just cannot believe how exact and how true everything you write is. It’s a little unnerving to say the least.
    My first and perhaps last attempt at marrying a lovely Ukrainian girl failed miserably because I fundamentally got a lot of things completely wrong, and every single one of them detailed exactly in your writing………
    Yours sincerely,
    Kevin ”

    Kevin… leave Chygrynksiy alone already 😛

  7. Leon the Professional…

    Isaiah, I give this preview a 10/10 simply for containing a Natalie Portman Reference… 🙂

  8. Right now, during San Diego’s “Winter” we have Lows of 56F, and highs of 74F, so to me 21F would be damn scary…

    1. Right, I get the idea of the temperature shock, but it’s not like they’re going to be thrust out into the cold without proper gear or without the ability/need to run around a ton.

    2. Also: jealous of your winter cause I went outside in jeans and a light-weight shirt today because it was sunny and 60F! In November in NYC! Yay! It was so gorgeous.

    3. just have to rub it in there that yesterday it was so hot most people were let of from work, where i was it was 43 degrees celcius (109 f) and it was a serious heatwave followed bya storm but damn. everybody had to go and just sit in the water at the beach all day.

    4. 109F, thats disgusting.

      It is rare that we’ll get that kind of weather.

      but, i mean, in mid october we can still get hit by dry, dry high 90s… it can get nasty here too… though, never enough to get us out of work.

      Well actually, since I am a soccer ref, all it takes is real rainfall to get me out of work, but in San Diego, real rainfall happens two days out of the year.

    5. seriously. i hear “below freezing” and i think, “don’t eat the yellow snow, that’s where the eskimos go.”

  9. In Canada, our winter is usually around the -30C(-22F) mark, sometimes -40C (-40F) with the windchill.

    And no. We don’t live in igloos. 😛

    1. yea, i’m from south carolina, where it is humid 90’s all summer (way worse than dry 90s) but i’m currently teaching in Northern China. This area has weather like your Canada, Kari. I think i might die. The river near my apartment is frozen and that’s pretty amazing to me because i have never seen anything frozen like that except at the ice rink.

    2. I live in Toronto which is a little bit warmer than Ottawa. Winter is usually -20 with windchill of -30. But I find that Ottawa, where Kari is from, is a much better city. I love Ottawa and the people there.

  10. hey the place where I live goes down to around -40 so its not that bad at all…
    We js gotta get used to it fast…
    barca JS win!!!!!!
    P.S: Isaiah: ur blog is one of the bests around,, love it:)

  11. i ran into some asian dude at a party rocking a pink suit jacket–it was a collage/quilt almost, made of old kimonos(i couldn’t make that shit up if i tried)–with two hot russian chicks at his side. he was their manager. they looked like they were ready to snatch the chain off your neck. you hear about post communist russia being bad in textbooks but that shit is for real. they were straight up gangster.

    thats exactly the attitude with which i expect to see barca go into this match. its not easy to find your form if you’re coming from a mediterranean climate in sub zero degrees, i would imagine, but that’s exactly what barca’s got to do. iniesta in the middle sounds great, and maybe this being an exigent circumstance pep might risk henry as he did iniesta in the champions league final, but i’m thinking he goes with keiteeee! and maxwell as left back.

    i hope i’m able to stream this game tomorrow morning.

  12. Dunno dudes. Like many here I come from a place where in the winter you scrape the ice off the *inside* of your car.
    A couple of flakes in Catalunya and they’re broadcasting live from the site of the nearest mush puddle and chaining up their car tires.

    1. Yeah, but nobody over reacts like tv news in Los Angeles. At the mere thought of a drizzle they send an on-the-location newsperson to report on the storm of the year.

    2. In San Diego, the lightest of sprinkles will cause 10 times the traffic accidents.

      Us Californians have many pros. Good driving is NOT one of them!

    1. Ehh… I prefer San Diego weather than Caribbean weather.

      When I was in San Juan (Puerto Rico), not only was it very warm/hot, but it was REALLY humid. I swear it was sprinkling one day, and not one person decided to put a jacket or sweater on.

      Its very nice, but San Diego wins out because our hot whether gets nice pacific winds to cool it down.

    2. haha, maybe in Puerto Rico, but I grew up at the skirt of the mountains (in DR), where the air is rather cool and the beach is less than 30 minutes away. And I mean legit tropical beaches, not California ones 😛

    3. Woah!!!

      Maybe to us, Pacific Beaches are legit, and Caribbean ones are lame.

      Your beaches may boast clean blue water, significantly slimmer bodies, and the ability to consume alcohol legally… but we have… um… um… damn, fine…. Caribbean beaches win. Our’s suck.

      (actually, i’ve always hated the beach, since i hate swimming, sunburns, sand in my pants, playing soccer barefooted, the inability to drink legally, and having to stare at fat people)

    4. Hey Jose, im also from DR the capital city nonetheless. I prefer DR’s weather than NYC’s at least you know it’s going to be hot allll year and it’s drier than NYC’s summer.

      I miss my beatchessss

    5. Awesome! I was actually born in Santo Domingo 🙂

      And Pacific beaches are cool, though; haha, right now they’re the closest thing I got.

  13. Man I love this Weather blog. So informative

    Oh Wait, it’s a Football blog? since when?


    I like the idea of Iniesta playing, to facilitate our slick play, BUT..

    i think we should roll the dice… play Keita next to Xavi for added muscle in the midfield and an extra target in the box. (cuz we might need to steal the three points from set peices), and Henry on wing, not only for width, but for some much needed directness!

    Then, Iniesta can definitely come in if something is not flowing right, or to rest someone:
    If we need more possession, or faster transition from defense to attack, for Keita
    If Henry isn’t 100%, or runs out of gas, for Henry
    If we are up 2 or 3-0 by 65th (doubtful), then Xavi, Messi, Ibra can all use some rest.

    Lets get it done!

    1. Very true.

      Keita for all the good things he deliver he is not a substitute that can change the game dynamics the way Iniesta does. The bench may end up being the desiding factor in this game.

      Besides, I am not sure how far the Savanna-like field suits the Xavi-Iniesta partnership.

  14. For India viewers, Ten Sports will be showing the rubin – barca match at 22.30. Its earlier than normal as the time difefrence from Kazan is less than rest of europe. //

  15. No body feeling the ‘heat’ here!? I’m pretty much shitting my pants… These Russian asses do play really well. After watching yesterday’s ManUtd-Moscow match, I’m bowled by Dzagoev & especially Milos Krasic and CSKA Moscow is only second fiddle to Rubin who seem to have struck their form only recently!! It seems some main player of theirs Sibaya has returned & the Argentinian Dominguez is really in deadly form. Not that I don’t have confidence in our own team but the tricky weather conditions are adding fuel to the fire 🙁

    1. Don’t be impressed by CSKA. ManUtd played a B line-up, they were thinking about the Chelsea clash coming Sunday. CSKA has lost to Wolfsburg and only won one match against Besiktas, who are definitely the weakest side in that group. And they didn’t manage to hold on to a 3-1 lead against a not so motivated ManUtd. If you look at the Russian Premjer Liga, they are currently 5th placed, they have already fired two coaches this season, they are actually pretty messed up compared to the CSKA of 2 or 3 years ago.
      But unfortunately, all this does not make Rubin Kazan any worse… they definitely kick ass and I’m also scared. If we lose today, I’ll be completely devastated.

  16. One correction, Isaiah:
    Dynamo hosts Inter, and there will also be temperatures around 0°C. Plus, the swine flu is quite widespread in the Ukraine, that’s why EVERY fan will be equipped with a breathing protection. This might create a scary atmosphere for the Interisti, but unfortunately the players won’t have to wear those masks.

    We actually need a win, at least a 2-1, because a 1-0 wouldn’t be enough to win the direct comparison against Rubin (I think our goal difference will be better, so a 2-1 is enough). And since our group is so damn close, I feel this criteria might in the end be a decisive factor. I like your line-up, although it is also a certain risk to play Henry and Alves in the cold after they have just recovered… especially, what if Henry has one of his not soo good matches – as he had quite a few this season? I’m not sure if Guardiola will take that risk, also given that Henry didn’t play for a single second against Osasuna.

  17. I think that a lot will depend on the feeling that Guardiola gets from Henry in practice. Injuries are a bitch. Injuries when you’re in the twilight of your career are a bitch dipped in dung.

    Henry will be raring to go. Starting he or Alves is less risky than having them sit on the bench, freezing, then trying to “warm up” to enter the match. Don’t forget that it’s only bad luck and some woodwork paint that have kept him out of the scoring column this season.

    This match is Crucial. If we win, we sit top of group with two matches left. The odds of losing both are slim, particularly with one being at home. So this the one.

    Keita has to start over Iniesta. So does Henry. We need strength over guile. Recall that after the last match the talk was all about how physical the match was. Henry puts pressure on a defense that Iniesta, even at his best, can’t. Simple as that.

    Alves has to start because right now, Marquez can’t be on the pitch. He also gives the width on the right that we need. Yes, he and Henry are coming back from injury, but this is a match for grownups, size-wise. We also need on the left side of attack, someone who requires a double-team.

    I am confident, but apprehensive. We are a better side. We just have to play like it.

    1. “Henry will be raring to go. Starting he or Alves is less risky than having them sit on the bench, freezing, then trying to “warm up” to enter the match.”

      Well put. At least for Henry. If Alves is not fully fit then no need to start him. We have alternatives. Though not appreciated enough yet.

  18. Simple:


    We used Iniesta last time, and saw that we needed Keita.I want that guy in the mid cause of his work rate and Henry cause of his physical presence.I don’t think we really need iniesta in this match but I can see him being subbed in the 2nd half.


      Im sure Yaya or Keitee would be freaking out about the temperature, not sure if they’ve dealt with this kind of weather.

    2. The Yaya has been in Ukraine for 2 years… I’m pretty sure he’s accustomed to that kinda weather. Not sure about poor Keita though

  19. Is anyone else’s listings have the Liverpool game on FSC and FSE? I’m not seeing the Barca game listed anywhere.

  20. By the way guys, if you had any problems watching the games I can upload it afterward if you can recommend a site where it is easy to upload big files.

    I had my own complications when I moved and I know how crazy I felt for missing a game or two 😀

  21. *
    a video of their training session. they’re all bundled up in cocoons aha don’t know how they’ll cope when playing time comes

    i’m missing this match but crossing my fingers that the weather doesn’t eff us up too much

  22. People in Toronto…….. where are you going to watch the match. This match is perfect timing for a long lunch. The match starts 12:30 EST, which is also the local time here. I would love to have a beer for lunch. I am downtown at Queen and Spadina.

    1. OK Torontonians Ill be watching the game at Philthy’s.

      Philthy McNasty’s Bar Sports Grill‎
      276 King St W, Toronto, ON M5V 1J2, Canada‎ – (416) 979-8060‎

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